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Lukas 'very pleased' with Rebel contenders Will Take Charge, Oxbow
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas declared himself "very pleased" after two of his leading three-year-olds posted workouts Tuesday in preparation for the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 16.
Will Take Charge, winner of the Smarty Jones here in January, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 3/5. A short time later, Oxbow breezed the same distance in 1:13 4/5 in his first workout since the Grade 3 LeComte romper finished fourth by just a nose in the Grade 2 Risen Star, both at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
"They were excellent," Lukas said. "They both had nice breezes. They got a little conditioning and handled the new surface. I really like the way they went. We sent them up separately yet they both came back with works that were almost identical, and I like that."
With both three-year-olds running in the Rebel, Lukas secured fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith to ride Oxbow while Jon Court remains aboard Will Take Charge.
Lukas also reported that Titletown Five, runner-up in Saturday's Gazebo at Oaklawn Park in his first start as a three-year-old, emerged from the race in good order.
"He fooled me into thinking I had him fit enough," Lukas remarked. "The good ones will do that because they make things look so easy. It was a good race for him and we should have plenty now to move forward with him."
With $600,000 in purse money, and 85 points up for grabs on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system, a large field is coming together for the Rebel.
That has the connections of undefeated Carve anxious about getting a spot if the 14-horse starting gate fills to capacity.
The three-year-old gelding is two-for-two with both impressive wins coming at Oaklawn. He started his career for trainer Al Stall Jr. and breeders Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, making his debut in a maiden claiming race where trainer Steve Asmussen dropped a check with $30,000 worth of owner Michael Langford's money and took him back to his barn.
Carve's first run for his new team was a gusty score over highly regarded Title Contender, trained by Bob Baffert, in an allowance race on February 17.
Oaklawn officials and published reports indicate 15 horses are considering running in the 1 1/16-mile contest, which means one would have to be excluded and placed on an "also eligible" list hoping another entrant scratches. Total career earnings (excluding money won in restricted races) are used to rank the entrants. Carve has $47,400 earned in his two wins, placing him 13th and very much "on the bubble."
"We are going to monitor how he's developing," said Darren Fleming, assistant to Asmussen overseeing the Oaklawn string. "It really depends on how many come up and how he comes up to the race. We need to see if he's going to be eligible, but for that kind of money, it's definitely worth taking a chance."